Friday, December 31, 2010
Faith in God!
Belief in God’s promises. The happiness and the blessedness of all those who believe in the Word of God runs right throughout the whole of the old and new testaments.
In fact the main purpose of Jesus preaching was to increase the faith of people in God.
When we look at the testimony of Holy Scripture we see that great and wonderful things happened to those who believed.
For example. Look at Abraham. Abraham is the Old Testament model of faith.
At the word of God, Abraham left home, he left his family, he left his country even and set out for a land he had never seen.
The only compass he had was his faith in God’s promise.
Abraham had faith in what God told him. God blessed Abraham and rewarded his faith by making him the father of a great people.
In the New Testament we see Mary as our model of faith.
Through God’s messenger, the angel, God spoke to Mary also.
God proposed that the Virgin Mary become the Mother of His only begotten Son, Jesus.
At the Annunciation Mary said “Yes” to what God was asking of her.
Mary’s “Yes” involved a huge leap of faith.
Mary didn’t know for sure the full implications of what she was agreeing to.
She had no idea that at the birth of her son every door would be closed in her face. She did not know that there would be no room for her anywhere except at a lowly stable.
She had no inkling that shortly after Jesus’ birth she would be a refugee in a foreign country.
She did not know that some thirty three years later she would see her beloved son executed in front of her eyes as a common criminal.
She only knew that this is what God asked of her. This was God’s plan for her.
She only needed to say yes. And she did so, without hesitation.
And so, many, many times during her life she had to confirm that original “Yes”.
But in spite of all these trials and tribulations Mary’s faith never wavered.
At the same time she was not afraid to ask questions. You see, Mary’s faith is not blind faith.
When Mary didn’t understand something, she pondered it in her heart until she did understand it.
Mary was the first person to receive the gift of faith in Jesus. Yes, the gift of faith because faith is a gift. A gift that must be assented to in order to be opened.
Elizabeth, her cousin, declared her “Blessed”.
The cause of her blessedness was because of her great faith.
Elizabeth tells us “Blessed is she who believed, who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Faith gives our lives meaning. Faith fills our lives to the brim with things, without which our lives would not have meaning.
Still to have faith is not to have all the answers. It doesn’t mean all the work is done for us.
On the contrary, the opposite is nearer to the truth. When we accept the gift of faith it often means more work for us.
Faith commits us to a life of searching. But at the end of the day, we have to bow to mystery. We have to accept God at His word.
And having faith doesn’t necessarily make our lives easier either because Faith is not a magic wand.
In fact the opposite is again true. It is because we have faith that we refuse to give up.
Having faith enables us to persevere, to struggle on.
Having faith is not simply a matter of believing but rather believing and then acting on that belief.
It is a question of hearing the word of God and doing it – taking risks on it and making sacrifices, going the extra mile because of it.
We have as our best example, Mary the Mother of God. The church proposes that Mary is our best example of faith.
Mary is blessed because she not only believed but also acted on that belief.
And because she acted on that belief we have a Saviour born to us and He is Christ the Lord.
Mary said “Let it be done according to Thy Word”.
We need to say the same. “Father, let it be done to me according to Your will, not mine”
That’s exactly what we say each time we pray the Lord’s prayer – the Our Father –
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” - Do we really mean it or have those words become - just words.
We need to think about what we pray. Like our mother Mary we need to really mean what we say – because only then will our actions bear fruit.
Our actions then are based on our belief in God and His promises. We have faith in God. We believe.
Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus. That is why the church proposes her as a model for the rest of us.
Today we are celebrating this feast. The Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.
For her holiness consisted in hearing the word of God, believing it and doing it.
We too will become holy if we, like Mary, hear the word of God, believe it and act on it.
Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
What is a Mother?
A mother is a constant source of blessing and protection.
She is our strength in weakness, our consolation in sorrow, and our hope in misery.
Everything in nature speaks of a mother.
The sun is the mother of the earth, nourishing it with light and heat.
It never leaves at night until it has put everything to sleep, to the songs of the birds and the brooks.
The earth, in its turn, is mother to the trees and flowers.
And the trees in their turn become mothers of their fruits and seeds.
Mary is the Mother of God but she is our Mother too, Our spiritual mother.
As we open a new year, Let us close the old with a prayer to our Mother, Mary the Mother of God and our Mother too.
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy.
Our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. And, after this, our exile, show unto us the fruits of thy womb, Jesus.
O Clement , O Loving, O sweet virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God !
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Happy New Year to all!
Deacon Bernie Ouellette
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday December 30, 2010
The Gospel today is a continuation of yesterday’s reading about the Presentation in the Temple. It deals with the second person who was present on that day. Her name was Anna and she is described as a prophetess, in other words a person who was a spokesperson for God. We do not often see women prophets in the Scriptures; most of them are men. Anna was elderly and had only lived for seven years with her husband. She was now 84 and had been a widow all these years. Again, widows were at the lowest rung of the social ladder. They could not produce children nor had they much chance of getting re-married. In many ways they were social nobodies.
However, Anna was a deeply spiritual person who spent her waking hours in the Temple, praying and fasting. She not only fasted and prayed, but she served God when she fasted and prayed. No doubt she was occupied also in many good works, but she lived in a constant habit of prayer. We are encouraged to pray without ceasing and to continue in prayer—and this is what Anna did. She also came on the scene just as Jesus and his parents were in the Temple. She must have realised the true identity of the Child and gave thanks to God. She began to speak about the Child to everyone, especially those awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
How often have we been longing to see God’s power become something tangible in our day and age? Wouldn’t it be great to have all our troubles and worries disappear? When a relative or loved one recovers from a serious illness, it would certainly have us dancing and falling to our knees in deep admiration and appreciation.
God always remains with us. It is our response and our commitment that needs strengthening. Anna was in her golden years and she kept the faith. Can we be as purposeful? Of course, doubt and regret will challenge us, but through prayer, we can persevere.
Even when things seem bleak, the light of His Presence will arrive. Even when everything seems lost, He saves us just in time. Even if we lose faith and hope, He is there to strengthen us. That is how wonderful God’s love is for us. Let us keep praying for the grace of faithfulness. As we face another year ahead of us, may we continue to hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation. And when we approach the end of our earthly existence, may we feel as blessed as Anna to have witnessed God’s fulfillment of his plans.
The last verse of the Gospel today said: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.”What can we learn from this passage about our own lives? We can reflect that Mary and Joseph were faithful to the Jewish traditions as they understood them. We can reflect that Mary and Joseph were chosen from the working class of people who were not distracted by riches and power. We can reflect that Jesus grew as a normal human being as we do. Jesus grew in the wisdom and knowledge of the Father and he fulfilled all the prophecies about him. He was obedient unto death for the love of us.
We also grow in “wisdom” about who we are and what we are supposed to do in life. We are to grow in wisdom and knowledge and actualize the potential God has given each one of us. Today, we can ask ourselves these questions: Why was I born? What am I supposed to do with my life? How should I serve the world?
Loving God, help us reflect on our own lives and understand the gifts you have given each one of us. Help us actualize those gifts – no matter what our age – in the service of the poor, the powerless, the sick, and those who do not have education. Help us, with your Son; give ourselves in service to the world….All for your greater honor and glory. Amen
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Text of Pope Benedict XVI's homily for Christmas Eve Mass
Dear Brothers and Sisters! "You are my son, this day I have begotten you." With this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night.
She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel.
The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the "Son of God" through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel: "To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:6).
Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God's personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace.
On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God.
It is God's eternal Word that unites humanity with divinity. To this child belong those titles of honour which Isaiah's coronation song attributes to him: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Yes, this king does not need counsellors drawn from the wise of this world. He bears in himself God's wisdom and God's counsel.
In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God and he shows us God's own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world. Truly, the words of Israel's coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words.
In all of them, those words about divine sonship, about installation into the heritage of the peoples, about making the ends of the earth their possession (Ps 2:8) were only pointers towards what was to come as it were signposts of hope indicating a future that at that moment was still beyond comprehension.
Thus the fulfillment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. It is greater in the sense that this child is truly the Son of God, truly "God from God, light from light, begotten not made, of one being with the Father."
The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. God has not only bent down, as we read in the Psalms; he has truly "come down," he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth.
He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God's own peace. This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might.
This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the "rod of his oppressor" is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the "garment rolled in blood" (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God's closeness.
We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots.
Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfill the prophecy that "of peace there will be no end" (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world the "kingdom of righteousness, love and peace."
"Mary gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel's history had pointed. Luke calls the child the "first-born." In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, "first-born" does not mean the first of a series of children.
The word "first-born" is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow or not. So Israel is designated by God in the Book of Exodus (4:22) as "my first-born Son," and this expresses Israel's election, its singular dignity, the particular love of God the Father.
The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus "the first-born," simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy.
The first-born belongs to God in a special way and therefore he had to be handed over to God in a special way as in many religions and he had to be ransomed through a vicarious sacrifice, as Saint Luke recounts in the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice.
In Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. Saint Paul amplified and deepened the idea of Jesus as firstborn in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians: Jesus, we read in these letters, is the first-born of all creation the true prototype of man, according to which God formed the human creature.
Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God.
Finally, it is said to us that he is the first-born of many brothers. Yes indeed, now he really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are God's own family.
This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. Let us pray to him: Lord Jesus, who wanted to be born as the first of many brothers and sisters, grant us the grace of true brotherhood.
Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family. At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lk 2:14).
The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God's glory "we praise you for your glory." We praise you for the beauty, for the greatness, for the goodness of God, which becomes visible to us this night. The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve.
God's glory, from which all beauty derives, causes us to break out in astonishment and joy. Anyone who catches a glimpse of God experiences joy, and on this night we see something of his light. But the angels' message on that holy night also spoke of men: "Peace among men with whom he is pleased." The Latin translation of the angels' song that we use in the liturgy, taken from Saint Jerome, is slightly different: "peace to men of good will."
The expression "men of good will" has become an important part of the Church's vocabulary in recent decades. But which is the correct translation? We must read both texts together; only in this way do we truly understand the angels' song. It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if he had not called man to a free response of love.
But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God's prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son.
We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels' message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son.
God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin.
Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth. Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: "Glory to God in the highest" (Lk 2:13f.).
But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God's heavenly glory. So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves.
Thus, down the centuries, the angels' song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen.
The Gospel speaks about the shepherds living in fields watching over their flocks by night.
And suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them and they were terrified.
Who were these people, these shepherds?
At the time of Jesus, the status of shepherds was one of the lowest of the low — as it still is in many countries.
Even though the job they did really was important work, few people recognized it as such. In fact, the world seemed to pass them by.
Yet, typically, it was to such as these that the good news of Jesus' birth was first announced, and it was just such as these, these lowly shepherds, who welcomed the news of that birth.
We can just picture them in the cold quiet countryside, keeping watch over their sheep as they did night after night, year after year.
These were the poor people who lived and were working for the most part in darkness and in the cold.
But this only meant that they were ripe for the Good News.
The Good News about the Messiah, the Saviour of the world who was to come to save us from our sins.
We all know that God comes first to those who are poor, and especially to those who are not afraid to admit it.
Now we know that material poverty is the most obvious thing we think of when we speak of poverty.
But there is a worse kind of poverty then material poverty — there is spiritual poverty – spiritual poverty which is a denial of the existence of God or a denial of our sinfulness and our need for a Saviour – and this is much worse than material poverty.
It was while the shepherds were doing their lowly task of caring for their flocks that the great news came to them: 'Today in the town of Bethlehem a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.'
God came to them in the midst of their humble lives — as they were watching over their flocks.
Having received the message of the angels, the shepherds did not sit back.
The message demanded some action from them.
It demanded that they go and search for the child. So they made the journey to Bethlehem, and they found there that it was just as the angels said it would be.
With their outward eyes all they saw was a little babe, a child 'wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying a manger'.
This is what they saw at first glnce, but with their inward eyes, the eyes of faith, they then immediately recognised this child as the Messiah, the one who was to come to save them from their sins, the Saviour sent by God.
Still, after all the excitement had died down, and when all the brightness had faded, they had to turn back into the cold dark night and head back to their flocks. They had to get back to work.
And so we are told that they went back 'glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.'
They went back to work. They went back to their flocks.
They returned to the same lowly work, the same obscure life.
Nothing had changed, and yet everything in the whole world had changed.
Life went on as before but with one major difference: now their hearts were filled with wonder.
They now had a new vision, a new hope, a new sense of the love of God for them and of His presence with them.
They knew that their Messiah had come.
Their lives, which a short while ago were dim and monotonous, now glowed with meaning.
The old world had become like a new country where everything glistened with marvel, hope and joy.
What about us?
What message is in there for us? Is our life filled with marvel, hope and joy.
Our lives should be. Because even though we haven't seen the angels, we have heard the message of the angels. And tonight (today) we have come to see the Child. To celebrate His birthday.
Like the shepherds, we must try to see Him with the eyes of faith. With eyes of faith we don't just see a tiny human baby.
If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah. We see our Saviour, Christ the Lord. We see God's gift to us. God's love made flesh for us. We see Emmanuel, God with us.
And, of course, just like the shepherds, we all have to go back to our homes and get on with our ordinary lives.
But we should leave this place with a difference in our lives.
If we truly believe that God is with us. Emmanuel.
Then we should to back to home tonight (today) glorifying and praising God for His goodness to us.
Yes, we go back out into the dark cold night (day). Back to our homes, back to our commitments, back to all the small and sometimes boring tasks that go to make up our daily lives.
But we see should see things differently. We really should. Because we should now also see ourselves differently.
In the divine human Child, we see our own humanity, we can even see our own divinity.
This realization should lead us to a deeper commitment to life.
We have to learn how close we can be to God, and how close God can be to us, in the midst of our sometimes painful and sometimes joyful lives.
In the birth of Jesus we see that God has immersed Himself in our messy world and our often confused lives.
Tonight (today) as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child may we experience some of the great joy announced to the shepherds.
This joy springs from a sense of God's presence with us and love for us.
Joy is one of the greatest signs of the presence of God.
Joy comes from the realization that yes, Martha there is a God.
Yes, somebody is watching over us, somebody is watching out for us.
Somebody is with us. God is with us in His Son, Jesus. Emmanuel.
And if God is with us who can be against us?
Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord for our Saviour is born to the world. True peace has descended from Heaven.
Merry Christmas to all.
Deacon Bernie Ouellette
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday December 23, 2010
Scripture: Luke 1:57-66
Meditation: Birthdays are a special time to remember and give thanks for the blessings that have come to our way. Are we grateful for the ways that God has worked in our life, even from our birth? In many churches of the East and West the birth of John the Baptist is remembered on this day. The friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth surprised at the wonderful way in which God blessed them with a child. This child was destined by God for an important mission. The last verses in the last book of the Old Testament, taken from the prophet Malachi, speak of the Lord’s messenger, the prophet Elijah who will return to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). We see the beginning of the fulfillment of this word when the Angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah the wonderful birth and mission of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17). When this newly born child was about to be named, as customary on the eighth day, his relatives quibbled over what name to give him. This child however has been named from above! And Elizabeth is firm in her faith and determined to see that God be glorified through this child. The name John means “the Lord is gracious”. In the birth of John and in the birth of Jesus, we see the grace of God breaking forth into a world broken by sin and without hope. John’s miraculous birth shows the mercy and favour of God in preparing his people for the coming of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist’s life was fuelled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of God’s kingdom. Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah. John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness earlier to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God. John’s clothing was reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (see Kings 1:8). John broke the prophetic silence of the previous centuries when he began to speak the Word of God to the people of Israel. His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who blamed the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. Among a people unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to recognize and receive Christ when he came.
What is the significance of John the Baptist and his message for our lives? When God acts to save us, he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. Each and every day the Lord is ready to renew us in faith, hope, and love. Like John the Baptist, the Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. God wants to fill us with his glory all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favour towards us.
Lord Jesus, you bring hope and salvation to the world that was lost in sin, despair, and suffering. Let your grace refresh and restore your people today in the hope and joy of your great victory over sin and death. Amen
Dominic Luan Vu
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Homily for Christmas (Children’s Mass – 7pm)
As I was preparing for Christmas Eve Mass I came across this poem written by a woman named Sarah Hale. The poem is called “Mary had a little Lamb”. This poem is probably one of the best known and best loved children’s poems. When I was a child I had to memorize this poem. Many of us remember it. It goes like this:
Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the baby Jesus. In the Gospel today we hear about the birth of Jesus. Often we call Jesus the “Lamb of God” and since Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary I thought I would take parts of this poem and turn it into a kind of Christmas carol.
Now this short version may never be as popular as the original poem but it might help us to remember the true meaning of Christmas. (to be sung)
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.
Mary had a little lamb, He was born on Christmas Day.
She laid Him in a manger bed, manger bed, manger bed.
She laid Him in a manger bed, to sleep upon the hay.
Angels filled the night time sky, night time sky, night time sky
Angels filled the night time sky, and they began to sing.
He came to give us joy and peace, joy and peace, joy and peace.
He came to give us joy and peace and take away our sin.
Why do I love this precious Lamb, precious Lamb, precious Lamb,
Why do I love this precious Lamb, because He first loved me.
Now we shouldn’t have to use songs like this and other gimmicks to remember the real meaning of Christmas but you know what? It seems that each Christmas we have a hard time remembering whose birthday it is and what it is that we are celebrating.
It seems that the whole world starts to prepare for Christmas many weeks ahead of the big day. We listen to the ads on TV and on the radio telling us how many days are left in this Holiday Season and we should buy this or that present for someone else. Many times it is simply called a holiday and the word Christmas is hardly ever used.
Now many of us have heard the story of how the Christmas Candy Cane came to be. The stories may not necessarily be true but they do serve to teach the children about the Christ Child and can also remind each of us about the true meaning of Christmas.
The Christmas Candy cane. (show them the large candy cane) At Christmas time, everywhere we look we see them. They are used as decorations on Christmas trees not only because they look so good but they are also very popular Christmas treat, because they also taste so good.
First of all, if you look at a candy cane you can see that it looks like the letter J. Whose name starts with the letter J? Jesus’ name starts with the letter J. Every time we look at a candy cane it should remind us about the Holy Name of Jesus.
If you look at the candy cane when it looks like this (upside down J) then you can see that it looks like a shepherd’s crook. The shepherd used his crook to keep the sheep from wandering away from the flock and getting lost or eaten by wild animals. The Bible says that Jesus is my Lord. The Bible also says that the Lord is my Shepherd.
This candy cane should remind us that Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is my Shepherd. He will keep me from wandering away from the truth by the truth of His Word.
You notice also that the candy cane is mostly white. White is the colour of purity. Mary is the pure virgin who became the Mother of Jesus. Mary became the Mother of God.
White should also remind us that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God – and when Jesus takes away our sin – our souls also become as white as snow.
The candy cane also has red stripes on it. Red is the colour of blood. The bible also tells us that before He was crucified for our sins, Jesus was beaten with a whip that left blood red stripes on His body. The bible says we are healed by those stripes. The red stripes on the candy cane should remind us that because of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection we might have eternal life with Him in heaven.
Some candy canes have also a green stripe on them. Green is the symbol of life. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. This green stripe should remind us of Jesus who is also called the “Bread of Life” who has come to earth as a baby to lead all of us to everlasting life.
To many people, the candy cane is just another holiday decoration or a piece of candy to be eaten and enjoyed. But to all Christians the candy cane should forever be a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is all about celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, our Lord and Saviour who invites you to celebrate His birthday. We do this first of all by attending Mass and praying for our family and friends. We also celebrate by putting up and decorating Christmas trees and by giving and receiving presents - We do this because each one of us is a child of God - and we want to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by enjoying each others company, enjoying good food and treats with our family and friends. It really is a birthday party so we should celebrate it and enjoy it. We just need to remember whose birthday it is that we are celebrating.
Dear Lord, we thank you that Jesus is the good shepherd, the Lamb of God who came to save us from our sins. We thank you that because of His suffering, death and resurrection we too will have life everlasting. Help us to remember this each time we see a candy cane this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Your Son – help us to have fun with our family and friends but also help us to not forget the true meaning of Christmas - Jesus’ birthday.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Deacon Bernie Ouellette
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Today's readings are preparing us for the recognition of the fundamental truth of our lives, the fundamental truth of Christmas:
What does it mean the word we have twice I today's readings: "EMMANUEL"? By the fact that God was born as a man He is for us EMMANUEL – GOD WITH US.
What does it mean for me that "God is with us"?
Since the nativity of Christ God is really with us! God became one among us. He took our nature; He became a man – God incarnated. He had taken on Himself the nature of our first parents and became a man like we, with all (but sin) consequences of this fact. This is not the simple act of solidarity; this is not an empty sign of sugary sentimentalism. This is the only one possible way to get us back home to the unity with God the Father. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:31
"si Deus nobiscum quis contra nos?"
"If God is with us, who can be against us?"
If God is with me, the true EMMANUEL – who can be against me? ONLY MYSELF!!
Maybe this is the truth we won't like to accept and this is why our lives are miserable and unhappy, because we don't accept this ultimate truth expressed by St. Augustine:
"God created us for Himself and we are unhappy until we rest in Him".
As long as I try to live without God, without recognizing the He created me for Himself and I can be happy only in Him … I will be upset and even fed-up, sick and tired, exasperated and annoyed.
God's coming in Bethlehem, the incarnation of the Son of God is for me the only chance, the only possibility of becoming happy and saved.
In one issue of the WCR (November 15, 2010) I read a short interview with Michael O'Brien - Canadian bestselling author and painter. In this interview he is saying:
"World is sliding into darkness deeper than that before the birth of Christ. The big difference is that before Christ, the pagan world was "crawling" out of horror of sin and darkness but now Western civilization that has known Christ is denying Him and "sliding back" into it, by dictatorship of relativism and liberalism. Our enemies are not other human beings, but the real powers of darkness. We have rejected Christ and entered a satanic phase of history."
Dark and very pessimistic diagnosis but … is it not because we won't like to recognize that God is EMMANUEL – GOD WITH US. We constantly claim that He is against us. We accuse Him of the crime of not following our caprices and whims and we "liberate" ourselves from His presence, from His Love and ultimately from eternal live. We won't like God to be EMMANUEL – God with us, because He is limiting our freedom.
And this is the misery of our civilization.
Maybe for the end, a personal question: "Is God with me, or am I against God and after all against myself?"